Psychologist Brings Mental Health Treatment to China’s Small Screen

A new TV show sparking mental health talks in China and putting a clinical psychologist in the spotlight as people feel more comfortable talking about the once taboo topic.

The drama, which is simply called “Psychologist” and first aired on November 23rd on the streaming site Youku, revolves around the fictional work and life of a psychologist. The show follows her as she offers counseling to people with mental health issues from depression to bulimia and addresses social issues such as parenting, generational conflicts, and women’s dilemmas in the workplace. The hero helps each patient to overcome their problems in a multi-part arc while facing their own challenges with love and life.

“All of the mental health cases in the drama come with solutions. Our aim is not to create fear, but to sew up wounds, ”said chief producer Guo Feng domestic media.

Chinese media have named the 40-episode series based on a 2007 novel of the same name by Chinese writer and psychiatrist Bi Shumin as the first in the country to focus on psychological counseling.

Xu Dingyuan, a Zhejiang-based psychological counselor, told Sixth Tone that while the show presented a plausible framework of counseling procedures and skills, the TV-ready plots did not explain the slow pace of real psychological treatment.

“The process of counseling is actually very slow, with no ups and downs in the storyline. Those who come to counseling are often not as cooperative as dramas portrayed, ”Xu said.

The 42-year-old said that while mental health concerns have grown since the pandemic, many people feel ashamed of mental health issues or visiting psychological counselors.

“The drama can help raise public awareness of common mental health issues, the ability to seek counseling and help alleviate people’s shame about the issue,” Xu said.

In 2015 the health authorities estimated that 173 million people in China live with mental disorders. Meanwhile, people’s awareness of mental health issues has risen: 94% of respondents in a 2020 survey said they consider mental health work important, up 6.1 percentage points from 12 years ago, so a report published in March by the Psychological Institute of the state-sponsored Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The show with actors Yang Zi and Jing Boran had a modest score of 5.1 out of 10 on Wednesday’s Douban rating platform with a large audience Whine that the show is unrealistic about how easily the heroine solves her patients’ problems. The shows official account on the microblogging platform Weibo where there hashtag has about 1.5 billion views, responding that the low score doesn’t matter and that the show’s goal is to “improve people’s mental health”.

Some viewers say it at least opened a dialogue: a Douban user wrote that the drama inspired her mother to apologize for a difficult childhood.

“She said she didn’t sleep well last night after seeing children grow up with mental health problems in the drama, even when their parents were around,” the user said wrote. “And she said she was not doing well … while she was crying, she asked me if I would blame her … that was always a scar on my heart.”

Editor: David Cohen.

(Header image: A still image from the online series “Psychologist” 2021. From Douban)

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